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Our locum agency has charged us for doctors’ hours that have not actually been worked. What advice can you give?

Our locum agency has charged us for doctors’ hours that have not actually been worked. What advice can you give?

5 May 2011

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Question in full:

Invoices we received from a locum agency stipulated a minimum charge of 11 hours a day, less than that worked by the locum doctors. The agency are being difficult when I have tried to reason with them in respect of paying for hours that have not actually been worked. I would be grateful of any advice that you could offer to me to help me resolve this situation and enable the practice to pay just for the work that has actually been done.

Question in full:

Invoices we received from a locum agency stipulated a minimum charge of 11 hours a day, less than that worked by the locum doctors. The agency are being difficult when I have tried to reason with them in respect of paying for hours that have not actually been worked. I would be grateful of any advice that you could offer to me to help me resolve this situation and enable the practice to pay just for the work that has actually been done.

A: As a general rule when you enter into a contract you will be bound by its terms, even if you change your mind at a later date.  However, the court can assist if you were led unwittingly into the contract, or if the terms you agreed were unreasonable or unfair.

Whether or not these remedies will be available depends on the specifics of the contract, ie, what was actually agreed. The important questions will be: when and how did you notify the Locum Agency of the level of cover you required; when did you receive the Terms & Conditions (if any) and/or the booking form; and what did the Terms & Conditions state and whether they were incorporated into the contract. This can be a complex legal issue to determine.

My advice is to try and settle this matter with the Locum Agency, using unreasonableness (11 hours appears excessive) and unsatisfactory service to assist with the negotiations. In the event that such negotiations fail and a compromise cannot be met then I would seek some independent legal advice.

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